Court Hearing of the Brisbane Riot - Defence and Verdict


CRIMINAL SITTINGS - BEFORE His Honour Mr. Justice Lutwyche.

In this ease, the prisoners were called upon for their defence.

Eaves, in his speech, which was of considerable length, argued that from the evidence it did not appear that he was connected with either of the meetings. He was a hard-working man, and was willing to work if he could got work. With many others he had been brought like cattle to Queensland, deluded by the specious arguments of Mr. Jordan.

To show how men like himself were situated, he stated that on one occasion, in search for employment, he went up the country, and for three days his wife and child were starving, while he was so weak that he had to be convoyed to town upon a bullock-dray. He laid these facts before His Honour, and would ask any man if he had not suffered sufficient provocation to make him act as he had done. He also stated that the evidence of the cabman Guerin was altogether unreliable.

Parker next addressed the jury, pointing out a discrepancy in the testimony given by McKay at the police court, and that given yesterday. In the evidence of another witness it would appear that the police magistrate, Mr. Massie, did not read the Riot Act in William Street.

This contradicted the evidence of McKay. The evidence of Guerin also showed that "it was not Parker who called for Bread or blood." Yet on that witness's testimony he had been sentenced to take his trial, and had as a felon been dragged through the streets in a most injurious and degrading manner. It would appear from the evidence that his only offence was that of exhorting the mob to keep quiet. He depended upon His Honour to point out further discrepancies in the evidence.

The prisoner Murray addressed the Court. He stated that there was not any evidence that he had incited any one to commit a breach of the peace. No one had proved any disorderly conduct on his part, or that he had endeavoured to persuade others to do so. McKay had stated that his (Murray's) words were of so little moment that he did not deem them worthy of special notice.

The prisoner went to the scene of the alleged riot when he heard the gun fired, and went as any peaceable citizen might do to see what was going on. Mr. Massie recognized him in the crowd, and told him to go home ; he had been known to Mr. Massie at Maryborough and spoke to him personally.

He (prisoner) believed that he would not have been picked out from the crowd if Mr. Massie had not done so. He desired to bear testimony to the temperate conduct of the police. If he did call Mr. Seymour a scoundrel, it was done under the influence of passion, and he apologized before the Court.

He never knew the meeting was illegal when he went there. He had a wife and five children; times were very hard, and he thought that the meeting was only to obtain redress for their wrongs. They had also been placed in gaol since the 11th September last.

The prisoner Murray called John Lang, storekeeper's assistant, who gave him a very good character; he had known prisoner for twenty-five years, and he had the reputation of being a quiet, peaceable, and well-conducted man; prisoner had served as a special constable at the time of a political commotion in his native town.

John Moore Labarte also gave evidence as to the peaceable character of the prisoner.

His Honour, in charging the jury, addressed them first upon the second count - that of unlawfully assembling. He laid down that the evidence showed that on the 11th September two meetings were held, at which all the defendants were present.

It was a question for the jury to consider whether the nature of the assemblage was such as would be calculated to inspire fear in the minds of ordinarily constituted men - men who were not foolishly timid. The jury must consider the place, hour, and language used. Was it likely to produce fear in the minds of ordinarily constituted men.

A learned judge had laid down, with whose ruling he agreed, that it was not enough that the assemblage caused alarm to foolish and timid men - it must cause alarm in the minds of men of reasonable firmness and courage, in order to constitute the misdemeanour set out in the second count. If the jury found that either of the meetings were of such a nature, and the defendants were present, then they would find the prisoners guilty of that count.

If at the meetings language was used such as described, then, although they might not have used the language, they were guilty of unlawful assemblage. It was not necessary to constitute the offence, that they should take an active part in the matter ; it was only necessary to prove that the meeting was of" such a character as set forth in the information, and that they were present.

With reference to the first count of the information, the prisoners were arraigned on a charge of riot. It was not necessary, in order to prove this charge, that a breach of the peace should be committed, - it was enough if three or more persons were collected together with disorderly intentions, and that they used actions of force, or with an apparent tendency to inspire alarm.

But if the jury believed the witnesses, there was a breach of the peace committed in the bursting in of the doors of the Government store. The jury retired, and after the absence of two hours delivered a verdict of guilty against all the prisoners.

William Eaves was called upon by the Clerk of Arraigns if he had anything to say why the sentence of the court should not be passed. He stated that he had been robbed in coming here. He had been deluded into it, like many others, by the false representations of Mr. Jordan; he was willing to work if he could get it; he had tried but could not.

It was hard to see a starving child and a weeping mother when one would come home. If His Honour had seen one-fiftieth part of the destitution which he (prisoner) had it would make his hair stand on end. He had seen men, women, and children, so destitute that they had scarcely a rag to cover their nakedness.

The squatters had done this; they got them out to the colony in order to obtain cheap labour; and he knew of instances where there were men who were on squatting runs who did not obtain a penny, merely their rations, and unless they were good hands they would not got that. He (prisoner) was innocent; he thought he was attending a legal meeting for the purpose of redressing their wrongs.

The other prisoners did not address the Court.

His Honour sentenced Eaves, as ringleader, to twelve calendar months' imprisonment, with hard labour. Parker, as chairman, to six months' imprisonment, with hard labour; and Murray, on account of his previous good character, to three months' imprisonment, with hard labour, in Brisbane Gaol.